Quill and Scroll’s
Vanessa Shelton Chapter of the Year Award

2023 Chapter of the Year

Elmont Memorial wins top chapter
for 2023 academic year

Elmont Memorial High School’s Quill and Scroll Chapter earned the 2023 Chapter of the Year title.

Elmont’s dedication to leading younger students impressed judges. This past year, adviser Alexandra Martinez and her staff piloted a self-titled News Expansion Operation (NEO), an initiative to bring student journalism to sixth-graders in their district. The idea was brought by an eighth grader, according to Martinez.

Martinez’s student approached her about a mentoring program that could bring research and journalism to the younger students in the district, saying he didn’t have access to that in elementary school.

“He wanted to know if we could expand and meet with elementary schools in our district, to share the love of journalism to get students familiar with the concept of a school newspaper,” Martinez said. “Their school doesn’t really have one, you know, to kind of serve as a mentoring program.”

Martinez said they will tweak the program for next year to include basic interviewing techniques and writing process to culminate in a senior send-off piece.

Martinez said that the student’s school did not have a mentoring program like this before.

The NEO project is unique, not only because of its ingenuity but also because of the leadership the students display within the program.

“The Elmont Memorial Chapter impressed the judges with their leadership concerning the elementary school training as well as their dedication to inviting professional journalists in as speakers,” said Lori Keekley, associate director for Quill and Scroll.

Martinez also made efforts to reach out to professional journalists in her community to have students discuss the media world.

For last year’s induction ceremony, Martinez invited local journalists from the tri-state media market to come in, either in-person or virtually, to speak with her students about journalism. Last year’s virtual speaker, an award-winning weekend news anchor Thema Ponton was invited not only because of her professional experience but also because of the mentor role Martinez felt she could play as a Black journalist for her staff.

“Not everyone in our school is Black, but just for them to see anchors who have been successful from the Black community, I think is so important as well,” Martinez said.

Martinez had a clear passion for bringing student voice to the forefront of her work with them, both with her work as an adviser and school librarian.

“I really let them come up with everything we do a lot of brainstorming in our clubs to on how to make everything better,” Martinez said. “So whatever media club it is, we really let the students you know, produce everything from beginning creation to end publication.”

Elmont Memorial High School

eight guiding principles

Find a list of previous winners here:

  • 2023: Elmont Memorial High School
  • 2022: Richland R-1 High School
  • 2020: Francis Howell North High School

2024 Chapter of the Year applications open

Applications for the 2024 Chapter of the Year are now open. The application deadline has been extended to May 3, 2024.

During the past 96 years, Quill and Scroll has granted charters to more than 11,400 schools around the world. When a school’s journalism program receives its charter, students in the school begin a Quill and Scroll chapter there. Quill and Scroll does not dictate how active a chapter should be, but the organization’s Chapter Manual does provide some guidance on the value of an “active chapter,” the activities it may engage in, and its general goals:

“The chapter can accomplish these goals: 

(1) inspire members of the staff to greater efforts; 

(2) attract students of higher ability to publications/media work by offering them journalistic recognition and honors; 

(3) provide incentive for the development of the journalism department and the improvement of school publications/media; and 

(4) secure greater recognition of journalism work by students, school officials and the community.”

Other details

  • Eligibility for the Award will require chapters to have initiated members into Quill and Scroll in each of the past three years.
  • Entry is free.
  • Winners will receive:
    • Plaque, 
    • Four free memberships and honor cords,
    • One student on the Student Advisory Board, and
    • $250.
Former Q&S Executive Director posing for a portrait.

Vanessa Shelton